After forty years of political enormity, Zimbabwe finally awakened to a bright dawn - or at least, a marginally less grim one - with Robert Mugabe's sensational and unexpected voluntary step-down. There's no doubt that the move came unwillingly, but it had once seemed that the only way the seemingly immortal Mugabe would leave his throne was in a pine palanquin headed straight for Harare's nearest mortuary.
Whether the change will bring prosperity, or even democracy, to Zimbabwe is hazy. But Mugabe's removal is still cause for celebration within the country, and across all of Africa. Just about the last in a long-line of post-colonial despots who ensnared power is finally out of office, and not a decade or two too soon.
In 1957, Kwame Nkrumah led the British colony of the Gold Coast to freedom, declaring himself president of the new Republic of Ghana. The first African colony to achieve self-determination, Ghana's independence sent a wave of nationalism across the continent, with citizens of various British, French, Belgian, and Portuguese properties now clamouring for their own self-determination.
The scramble for autonomy meant that in the next decade no fewer than thirty African territories seceded from their colonial masters. Unfortunately, few of them could follow the model of stability and economic prosperity set by Nkrumah's Ghana. Leadership and politics were unfamiliar concepts for most of the newly liberated nations, and for all too many of those in a position of power, the opportunity for change became an opportunity for personal gain.
This hitherto unknown authority had the capacity to corrupt, and quickly the continent began to replace colonial masters with tyrants whose regimes caused bloodshed amongst the very populations they were elected to save. Ethnic divisions caused civil war to sweep across the newly independent nations, as nepotism, venality, and persecution began to run rife amongst the continent's fresh crop of rulers.
From kleptocrats to kings to cannibals, Africa's despots have come - and still exist - in an array of insidious forms. These are the ten most bloody, brutal, and inhumane of the continent's worst dictators.